Catalogue description Foreign Office: Permanent Under-Secretary's Department: Registered and Unregistered Papers

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Details of FO 1093
Reference: FO 1093
Title: Foreign Office: Permanent Under-Secretary's Department: Registered and Unregistered Papers

This series consists of a collection of registered and unregistered papers originating in the Office of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State, (PUS) of the Foreign Office and the Permanent Under-Secretary's Department, (PUSD) relating to liaison with the intelligence services. These records are principally concerned with intelligence related matters and with foreign and defence policy issues, where information was collected and received by covert means.

There are records relating to Rudolf Hess during his time as a prisoner of war. The Hess papers are principally records of conversations between Hess and various British officials after his flight to Scotland on 10 May 1941, and translations of personal letters to and from his family and friends spanning the period 1941-1945. During this time Hess was held at the Prisoner of War Reception Station in Abergavenny.

There are also papers relating to activities of the Duke of Windsor during the Second World War. The Windsor papers deal with official concern at the Duke's supposed pro-Nazi sympathies during the Second World War, and in particular his activities as governor of the Bahamas.

Records within this series are available to download as digital microfilm .

Date: 1873-1985

The files generated by PUSD conformed to general FO/FCO Registry principles, although there were marked differences, in particular to the file reference numbering systems employed and to the normal practice of annual new file opening. Pieces 108-588 are arranged by heading and topic.

Related material:

Generally records of the law advisers' work can be found in minute form in the records of the appropriate departments to which they were providing advice.

For records relating to the Permanent Under Secretary's responsibilities for funding intelligence gathering operations abroad see Records created or inherited by the Secret Intelligence Service: HD

For further records relating to Second World War responsibilities see Division within FO

For records of the Joint Intelligence Committee Memoranda (JIC Series) see CAB 158

For records of the Joint Intelligence Committee Minutes (JIC Series) see CAB 159

For records of the Joint Intelligence Committee Secretariat files see CAB 163

For records of the Colonial Office Intelligence and Security Department (ISD), see CO 1035

For Foreign and Commonwealth Defence Department files from 1967 onwards see FCO 46

For related material from the Cabinet Secretary's papers see CAB 301

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Permanent Under Secretary's Department, 1968-

Foreign Office, Office of the Permanent Under Secretary of State, 1823-1949

Foreign Office, Permanent Under Secretary's Department, 1949-1968

Physical description: 695 file(s)
Access conditions: Available in digital format unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

From 1992 Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Selection and destruction information: At the beginning of this series is a miscellaneous set of unregistered PUSD papers relating to Rudolf Hess and dating from 1939-46, which was transferred to TNA in the 1990s. Following a ministerial decision to initiate a systematic review of PUSD papers, a tranche of more than 100 pieces, dating from 1873-1939, was transferred in 2005. In 2013 a further tranche was added. The majority of files cover the period from the outbreak of the Second World War until 1949. A small number of committee papers from 1950 to 1951 (FO 1093/579-588) were added to this tranche.
Accruals: Series is accruing
Administrative / biographical background:

Permanent Under-Secretary's Department

From the time of the creation of the office of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in March 1782, it was apparent that it was necessary for the Foreign Secretary to have a staff to undertake duties in his absence. The first of these was the sole Under-Secretary (William Fraser, in post 1783 to 1789), whose duties were largely clerical. However, as the business of the Foreign Office increased, especially following the introduction of telegraphic communications, two (occasionally three) Under-Secretaries were required, and they began to take on much of the work previously performed by the Foreign Secretary himself.

While the posts were held initially at the pleasure of the Foreign Secretary (i.e. they were political appointments) the benefits of continuity were appreciated, so that one of the existing Under-Secretaries was usually retained by a new Foreign Secretary. From this practice developed the office of the Permanent Under-Secretary, retaining his post regardless of the political complexion of the government in power. From 1823 the office of the Permanent Under-Secretary became the more important of the two Under- Secretaries, developing into the office of the professional head of the Office, while the other Under-Secretaryship became more involved with parliamentary business.

The responsibilities of the Permanent Under-Secretary developed to include being the head of the Foreign Service, chief adviser to the Foreign Secretary, receiving foreign ambassadors on the Foreign Secretary's behalf, chairing the Foreign Office senior promotions board and advising on major appointments, being accounting officer, and being in general charge of the administration of the Foreign Office. The Permanent-Under Secretary was also given responsibility for administering the secret vote (for which from 1825 he was paid a fixed annual honorarium) for the purpose of collecting intelligence about the activities of foreign powers that were of interest to the Crown.

The Permanent Under-Secretary's Department (PUSD) was established in 1949 and continued throughout the post-war period, and beyond the merger of the Foreign Office (FO) with the Commonwealth Office to become the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1968.

As the volume of business passing through the Foreign Office steadily increased and more political departments were created, the activities of the Permanent Under-Secretary's Department became more specialised. Eventually, the functions of the department centred on planning, liaison with the armed services, Chiefs of Staff and the responsible departments and ministries, defence policy, intelligence functions and such miscellaneous functions as the exchange of scientific information (particularly atomic and nuclear technology).

In 1966, following the creation of the Ministry of Defence, the department was split in two. A new Defence Department was created to undertake liaison with the Ministry and the armed services, and also to conduct business relating to defence supplies. The Permanent Under-Secretary's Department continued to undertake intelligence functions, including liaison with the Joint Intelligence Committee and the Defence Intelligence Staff.

For a greater part of the post war period in the 20th Century the superintending Under-Secretary for PUSD also served as Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and that role is reflected in significant body of the department's records.

Legal Advisers

Until 1872, legal advice on all matters to the Foreign Office was supplied by the office of HM Advocate General. In 1872, this office was allowed to lapse upon falling vacant and its functions were transferred, general legal advice on international matters passing to the Foreign Office. Initially, one under secretary in the Foreign Office was responsible for the provision of legal advice, and in 1882 when the responsible officer at the time was promoted to Permanent Under Secretary, the responsibility moved with him. A Legal Assistant was appointed in 1886, reporting directly to the Permanent Under Secretary.

From 1892 holder of this post was known as the Legal Adviser. Further assistant legal adviser posts were created in 1902, 1914 and 1925, and in 1929 one of these assistant legal advisers was given specific responsibility for claims matters. By 1955 there were six assistant legal advisers, and by the time of the merger of the Foreign Office with the Commonwealth Office the legal adviser was assisted by a team of eleven deputies, counsellors and assistants, and had an administrative assistant and a librarian in charge of the legal library.

The legal adviser and his staff have never formed a functional department of the Foreign Office, but instead have offered legal advice to the departments of the Office as required, while remaining responsible to the Permanent Under Secretary. The legal advisers' duties include offering advice on matters of English and international law, assisting in the drafting of treaties and instruments, attending conferences as part of United Kingdom delegations, and assisting in the presentation of the United Kingdom government's cases to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and elsewhere.

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